Debut Solo Viola Album by
Victoria Voronyansky explores works by Bach, Debussy, Albeniz, Biber, and
Piazzolla as Red Viola and Victoria's sensitive performances tell a
real-life fairytale of loss, recovery, renewal, and triumph!
It all began one snowy winter evening, in late 1992. I was still in high
school, and visiting New York City when my viola was stolen, carried away
by a homeless man, whom I can only remember by the scent he left behind as
he disappeared. To this day, when I close my eyes I can still feel the
cold, the snow on my skin, hear myself scream, and a choking sensation as
I realized that this truly happened. My voice, my first love, my emotional
outlet, gone forever, disappearing into the darkness of Manhattan.
The event became a painful secret, an occurrence I kept to myself. After
numerous searches and appeals for help from the police, my hope for the
viola's recovery slowly turned to despair, I didn't dare contemplate the
possibility of it coming back into my life.
However, one person's kindness, inquisitiveness, and determination altered
the course of this sad story, and changed my life in the most unexpected
and profound way.
As the world was ringing in the New Year and the New Millennium, Ava
Lindberg was pondering a question: what to do with a viola that came into
her possession. While inspecting the instrument and the Russian-looking
scarf the viola was wrapped in she began to realize there was more to the
story then she had been told, and that the Red Viola was most likely a
stolen instrument. Determined to find its owner, Ava traced it back
through subtle clues to locate me and bring the instrument back into my
A few days later, on January 8, 2000 I was awakened by a phone call. My
mom was calling to tell me that she received a letter for me, marked
"personal and confidential". I asked her to go ahead and open it. After a
long silence she said, "Your viola was found." The letter was from Ava
Lindberg. It simply said that she had a viola, which she thought was
stolen from me, and would like to discuss the future of the instrument.
Twelve years had passed since that fateful morning in Manhattan. Ava
became a good friend, whom I came to admire and respect, and who also
happens to be a wonderful pianist. Whenever we have the opportunity, we
play chamber music together. I will be grateful to Ava for the rest of my
life. The Red Viola has become a much cherished and loved companion in all
my musical endeavors. This album is a reflection, a musical narrative,
tracing the events of this real-life fairy tale. Each piece performed has
a connection to the story, with works by J.S. Bach, Vieuxtemps, and Biber
outlining the arc of emotional journey through loss and recovery, and
pieces by Albeniz, Debussy, and Piazzolla devoted to the process of
reconnecting and exploring technical and tonal boundaries of the Red
idea for making this CD has been my constant companion for many years. On
one hand I wanted to share this amazing story, and my gratitude to Ava
Lindberg for returning the Red Viola to me when it crossed her path. On
the other I knew that putting a project like this together will open up
old wounds and force me to relive the experience,
although in musical and emotional flashbacks, but still difficult thoughts
to bring up every day for the one year it took me to put this CD together.
Nevertheless I decided that giving this project life will help me cope
with both the trauma of it, and the reconnection to the instrument, plus I
felt that sharing my experience may help others who are dealing with a
difficult situation and are looking for some sense of relief and hope.
Throughout my life the only way I could process emotions successfully was
by playing viola or violin. When confronted with loss, it was the only way
I could cope. Instead of journaling or talking to friends or family I
would suddenly think of a certain piece by Bach, and know that if I only
played it I would get some sense of relief. And so I would
close a door to my practice room, get the music for Bach Cello Suites and
Violin Sonatas and Partitas, and start playing. One piece would be quickly
followed by another, and then another, I would move from a Sarabande of
one suite to a Prelude of a different Sonata, to a Bauree or a Courante,
and as the process would roll along my emotional state
would gradually stabilize, and after playing for an hour or two I felt
that I can put the instrument down, and face the world.
In putting together this CD I tried to find a balance between featuring
pieces that helped me cope with loss of the instrument and compositions
that helped me process the unexpected joy of getting the viola back. Yes,
after the long separation from the instrument and because of the traumatic
way it was torn from my life I needed to find a connection to it again. It
took a very long time to get the viola to sound good after
it wasn’t played for 7 years, its last known destination before falling
into Ava's hands being a floor of a parking garage on Manhattan's Upper
West Side. Subjected to all types of weather and terrible neglect it's a
wonder the instrument didn't deteriorate beyond any help. Fortunately a
wonderful violin restoration specialist, Adam Crane, took the time to
help me, and after extensive repairs the instrument sounded better then
ever! Not only was the Red Viola's tone improved, it was much easier to
handle. Thanks to changes Adam made to the fingerboard, nut, and bridge, I
could now get around the instrument with greater ease, and so I began to
explore repertoire for violin, flute and piano, attempting various
existing transcriptions, or transcribing pieces myself. It felt great to
approach the instrument with this fresh perspective, and although I still
enjoyed playing standard viola repertoire, I loved discovering new musical
possibilities that opened up to me.
Over the upcoming weeks I will be updating this page with details on how
each piece on the CD is connected to the story of the Red Viola. If you
would like to receive notices of these updates, please sign up here, or simply
keep checking back to see all the new posts. I would love to hear from you
too, so please don't hesitate to share your own stories.
Anabasis Red Viola ~ Asturias Leyenda by Isaac
Asturias Leyenda from Suite española Op 47 SC, transcribed for viola
composition included on Anabasis Red Viola is connected to the story of
separation and reunion with my instrument. Asturias had a unique role: it
helped me re-establish connection with my instrument, and served as a
reminder of what originally motivated me as a child to study music.
My fascination with music from Spain began when on my 9th birthday I
received an LP of Isaac Stern performing Lalo's "Symphonie espagnole" with
Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. I loved the piece, Stern's
interpretation, the rich and soulful sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra,
but what captivated me beyond everything else was the fire and passion of
this style of music. And so this piece by a
composer, performed by an American violinist, with the Philadelphia
Orchestra led by a Hungarian conductor came to symbolize Spain to me, a
kid growing up in the Ukraine. I imagined dancers with castanets,
accompanied by guitar, surrounded by beautiful lush trees, warmth, and
sun, a romantic vision that I wholeheartedly embraced and daydreamed
As years passed, the fascination grew. It was now over a decade later, and
the Red Viola was back in my life after a long absence. I wanted to find a
piece that would serve as a fresh start, something that could connect me
to a more innocent time in my life, and at the same time allow me to
explore new possibilities of this particular instrument. The goal was to
find a piece that would work well on a viola, both in terms of tonal
range, and character. The exploration, though, was contained to classical
and folk repertoire: works by numerous composers, among them Isaac Albéniz,
Manuel de Falla, and Pablo de Sarasate, as well as Flamenco music.
Although there were many fantastic compositions, none of the pieces I
tried seemed to work for this instrument.
The breakthrough came from an unexpected source. In a coffee house someone
was playing "Spanish Caravan" by The Doors. The guitar theme in the
opening was strikingly simple and memorable. I didn't know the song, and
after confirming the group was The Doors, and finding the exact name of
the composition, I began my research. It wasn't long before I found the
connection to "Asturias" by Isaac Albéniz . I loved the piece! Recordings
by Andre Segovia and John Williams inspired me to dig deeper. I wondered
why I hadn't come across the piece earlier.
As it happens, I did encounter the piece before, but in its original,
piano version. At that time, in that form, I couldn't even begin to
imagine it on the viola. It took hearing a rock version of the theme,
followed by a guitar transcription of the full piece, to make me realize
that this composition can actually work well on the viola.
I began to work on the "Asturias", and as I was getting to know the notes,
up with various
musical ideas, I also started to study geography of the Asturias region in
Spain, exploring the landscape, hoping to gain insight and inspiration.
The pictures of the mountains and beeches were breathtaking: I tried to
imagine what traits of Asturias was Albéniz thinking of when writing the
piece: Picos de Europa with their many caves, the stunning beeches, or the
fishing villages, dotting the coastline. I wanted to know what inspired
Armed with pictures of mountains, caves, beeches, seafood stews, and
grazing sheep in a neat little research file I was happy, learning a
beautiful piece about a gorgeous place in a region I fantasized about
since childhood. But alas, the deeper we dig, the likelier we are to find
things that shatter our first impressions. And so it was with "Asturias".
As it turned out, the piece's original title was "Prelude", within a set
of pieces called "Songs of Spain". The region inspiring this creation:
unknown. It was only after composer's death that it was published yet
again, this time with the title "Asturias-Leyenda" within a compilation of
pieces under the name "Spanish Suite". A quarter century earlier, Albéniz
had promised an editor in Germany to compose a multi movement work, with
pieces which would be evocative of various regions in Spain. But of the 8
pieces he agreed to compose, in actuality he had delivered 4. A couple of
years after Albéniz died, the editor, feeling cheated by composer's
original nonchalant attitude to his commitment, decided to take the job of
completing the opus into his own hands, by simply renaming already
composed works, which, in their original incarnation, lacked
region-specific names, and hence, could be easily titled by the editor as
he saw fit.
Upon finding these facts I looked at my carefully selected photos, said
goodbye to the pastoral images of the grazing sheep and the scrumptious
shots of seafood stew, and placed them into my "potential places to
travel" file. Although my initial reaction to liberties the editor took
with the naming process were anger and betrayal, I soon realized that in a
sense the new information was liberating. I could now probe deeper into
the musical content, looking into connection with numerous traditions and
influences, among them flamenco, romani, and middle eastern themes, things
that were obvious in the music itself, but which I didn't bother to delve
into from the get-go simply because of the implications from the piece's
name. So in a sense taking a step away from the name made it possible for
me see the piece for what it was: a fascinating, complex, strikingly
beautiful musical composition, that could captivate audiences, and inspire
performers no matter what the name was, just by simply being itself.
A few years ago
I was putting together a solo viola recital. Unaccompanied repertoire for
viola prior to Hindemith was scarce, and since the program needed to cover
the scope of different time periods and compositional styles, the solution
was to look at solo repertoire from a number of different instruments, and
see which pieces could, with minimal or no adjustment, be best adapted for
Debussy's Syrinx caught my attention initially because of the sheer beauty
and haunting quality of the piece. I was also intrigued by the title, and
the myth associated with the story. As the work on the piece began,
exploration of mythology seemed like a reasonable first step. A story of
an innocent, chaste nymph who, in an attempt to escape Pan's advances
chose to be turned into a hollow reed, inspired approach to tone color
that was pure, breathy, and ethereal. Thinking of the piece as being
centered around the idea of femininity, beauty, and youth, though, felt
somehow wrong when playing Syrinx in its entirety. There were aspects
inherent in the music that contradicted the innocence and purity I aimed
for. Instead, there was something primal, sensual about it, echoing the
opening bassoon solo from Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps", and as
much as I tried, I couldn't reconcile what I envisioned to be the essence
of the piece with its actual musical content.
Frustrated, I decided to research the genesis of the piece itself, hoping
to find clues that will help clarify my confusion. In retrospect, I
realize that this should have been my first step, but, perhaps without the
initial inner struggle experienced during the early stages of working on
the piece, the information that came up from subsequent research would
have had a lesser impact on the final performance.
It turns out that original title for the piece was "Le flûte de Pan", and
was intended by Debussy to be a part of a theatrical project with
playwright Gabriel Mourey. The project was a play in verse called Psyché.
"Le flûte de Pan" was to be performed during a portion of a play when two
nymphs discuss love, passion, and the sensual effect of the sounds of
Pan's music. In the meantime, Pan is hiding in a cave, playing the flute.
The sounds he creates have an inebriating effect on the nymphs, who are
seduced by the music. The piece was to be performed off stage.
The dedicatee of the piece was flutist Louis Fleury. He became the
champion of the piece, and performed it often. However he jealously
guarded the manuscript and refused to share it with anyone. Years after
its premier, when Debussy and Fleury had passed away, the piece became
available to the public. Fleury's widow gave the manuscript to the
publisher named Jobert. It was at the stage of getting published, when the
changes were made to the manuscript that altered the perception of the
piece, and even, to a degree, its content. The publisher changed the name
to "Syrinx", and asked flutist Marcel Moyse to edit the manuscript.
Originally the piece had no bar lines, and lacked most breath marks. Moyse
added quite a few breath markings, bar lines and time signatures, which,
the editor thought, would make the piece more accessible for the flutists
who were likely to purchase the manuscript.
After finding out all the information, I was convinced that Syrinx would
have to be a part of the album I was planning to record, based on the
story of the Red Viola, an instrument which was stolen, and returned to me
7 years later. Yes, the piece is gorgeous, and I love performing it, but
what really compelled me to make it part of the album were the parallels
in the journeys of the instrument and the manuscript. Both could have
ended their days in obscurity, destroyed by neglect and decay, and both
underwent a metamorphosis thanks to humanity and passions of those with
whom they came into contact. Ultimately it is not the object, but the
potential inherent within, that moves us to act, bringing something
meaningful and special out of obscurity and giving it voice once again.
requests from fellow Bratsche enthusiasts and some careful work with No.2
pencil, scanner, and various programs, I assembled a video of Piazzolla's
Tango Étude No. 3, with all my fingerings, bowings, and octave changes
marked and shown in the video. "Expressive liberties" were intentionally
left out of the scanned manuscript :) I welcome your feedback, questions,
and would love to see your video uploads of this fantastic piece!
markings clearly select HD setting (720p) or next highest, 480p.